Wednesday, October 24, 2012

make, glaze,fire, repeat

 I feel like things are going a bit round and round in circles at the studio these days, as I am working so hard to stay on schedule for my up-coming holiday shows, along with shipping off the shop and gallery orders so they arrive in time for holiday shopping in stores.  It's a bit of a scramble to do it all on my own, but once I get in the rhythm, it can be fairly satisfying.  For the most part all my shipping to other shops is done as of yesterday.  Phew! It was a lot of work (and I have 2 more NEW Galleries to showcase here on the blog still), but all that remains is a couple of local galleries and then my 2 shows- one in November and one in December.  I hope to be able to take a good long break over the holidays and rest my weary hands, which have been worked pretty hard over the past couple of years.

Sometimes I feel like fall just whizzes by and I hardly have a moment to really enjoy it.  Other times I'm really glad to see the year coming to a close, marveling about the opportunities that came my way and all the work I was able to make over the course of a year with only my 2 hands, a whole lot of determination, skill, and the support of my family and friends.  I totally feel thankful to be able to document it here on my blog- thanks so much for stopping by.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New work at the Woodlands Gallery

Fall Rhapsody by Melissa Jean at the Woodland's Gallery
I'm really excited about having a wider selection of my work available in my home-town of Winnipeg at the Woodlands Gallery.  I spent the first 14 years of my life in this city and still have a lot of family and friends who live in 'the Peg' so I'm a prairie girl at heart.  One of the great things about working with new galleries is being able to develop a body of work that is exclusive to their clients and venues.  The Woodlands Gallery will be carrying teapots, mugs, and vases in my Tangerine and Indigo Stripes, which I think will compliment the gallery's fall landscape paintings- the one above by Melissa Jean.  You can find the Woodlands Gallery at 535 Academy Road, and on Facebook too!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Shops carrying my Striped Bottle Vase

Hello, hello! Since September, things have really ramped up at the studio and I'm chest deep in shop orders that will be sent out by the end of the month in time for the holiday season!  I spent all day yesterday cutting my 'stickers' for my striped bottle vases (which I will be doing again today!!), as I have an enormous amount of Stripe Bottle Vases heading out the door in time for the holidays. 

Over here on the blog, my Stripe Vases might seem a bit old hat, but I did want to mention that I have added a few new colours to the mix and also changed my slip-casting body to a more pure porcelain, then my previous stoneware casting slip.  The difference is slight- oh, pretty pernickety in the making stage- likes to rip and tear if you don't use the most sharp utensil to cut the rim or seams, but there is a softness to the edges- where the white glaze meets the coloured glaze that makes my little ceramic heart sing.  Yes, I have a ceramic heart inside me- must have one of those to be so persistent and patient with all things clay related. 

So anywhoo, just wanted to pipe up and give a little shout out to a couple of new shops that will be carrying my striped vases soon:

Spruce Collective is a brand new shop that is opening in Abbotsford, BC, with all things vintage and good- this shop will be full of amazing and beautiful finds, I'm sure.  I can't wait to stop by in person soon! What a pretty logo, heh?

Gus & Ruby Letterpress is a letterpress boutique in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that will be getting a batch of my striped bottle vases towards the end of the month.  Their shop and letterpress designs are absolutely lovely and I'm thrilled to have work available at their shop in time for the holidays!

Adesso Atelier is a beautiful shop in Santa Barbara, California that I would love to visit!  I am really loving the studio store-front concept with most of these new shops!  Adesso is already carrying my striped vases as well as a few tall cylinder vases that include my triangle pattern too!

I'll do a post with some of the galleries that will be carrying a wider range of my work this fall- I can't stress how wonderful it is to be working with shops and galleries all across North America.  Many of the shop owners are makers or artists themselves and really understand how much effort and time I put into my work so I'm really grateful to be working with them!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

thoughts on the Studio Magazine article, working with large retailers, and 'craft' becoming mainstream

Back when I was in art school I had a favourite inspiration go-to book in the school library- it was an Arts and Crafts Movement book - I think it's the same as this Phiadon book, but it had a different cover back when I was looking at it, so it's hard to tell.  The book was literally filled with drawings of designs for teapots, mugs, textiles, rugs, china patterns, and glassware from this period.  While I was preparing for my talk at the Gardiner Museum in June I found these slides I had taken from portions of the book as a reminder of how much I had been inspired by the drawings of designers from this period.  I can't help but think of this book and these drawings when I see Molly Hatch's work, especially the teacups from the Mimesis Series.  I absolutely love how she drew teacups from this period onto a simple wheel-thrown mug.  I just had to buy one- a real one, hand-thrown, mishima incised and hand-painted, by Molly herself.  Imagine my surprise when I saw her designed version available in Anthropologie Stores a few months later, just as I had finished and was about to ship off my very large 450 vase Anthropologie order!

Which leads me to the article that was recently written in Studio Magazine, an Ontario Crafts Council publication geared towards professional crafts people within Canada.  I was approached to be included (along with a couple of other amazing artists) in an article about Anthropologie buying Craft and agreed to share part of my experience of filling a couple of small orders (the article says 1 small order, but it was 2), and then a really large order of 450 vases for them last year.  The premise for the article came out of a curiousness about what happens when a retailer gets behind a craft aesthetic, both by purchasing directly from artists and designers, or from creating designs in collaboration with an artist.  I think more opportunities have opened up to work with retailers over the past few years then perhaps previously, and while I myself have jumped on this band-wagon, I also recognize that it's a hard path to navigate as it's relatively new territory.  As artists we understand the role and commitment a gallery plays in our career, but the role of retail is something entirely different.  Many artists and makers that I talk to are wondering whether working with a retailer is right for them, and I guess I saw the article as an opportunity to explain a little bit about what's involved.

In the article I shared how the work load for an order of this size was really much larger then my studio of mostly myself can manage (although I did manage to do it!) and that, over the months it took me to fill the order, I didn't have the space or the ability to work on any other creative work.  I felt that it was important to share the reality of production when the work is created 'in house', as opposed to if the work was designed by an artist but produced over-seas.

 Since finishing the Anthropologie order last fall, I have had a lot of time to think through whether I would ever do an order like that again.  While I was really learning on the fly (ie steep learning curve!!), I very quickly realized that I am an artist and maker of small batches, not a ceramic manufacturer.  I have appreciated the ability of a retailer to promote my work the way Anthropologie did, but understand too well the limitations of my ability to produce a volume of work consistently for a retailer of that magnitude. While I have some misgivings and am frustrated by the lack of North American ceramic based manufacturing options for retailers, I would likely opt to design if this kind of opportunity ever came up again.

I think the article brings up some positives and negatives of retailers at large jumping on the 'craft bandwagon'.  It's not just Anthropologie who is working with artists and makers- there are many other large retailers doing the same.  I too have noticed terms like 'handmade', 'woven', 'knit', and 'hand-painted' being added to manufactured items as a way to add value and somehow increase sales based on the addition of a crafty term.  These are words that were once used by us as makers as a way to distinguish their work as being of more value (and thus more $) then manufactured items, but now everyone seems to be using these terms and it's become confusing to the average consumer.  Clearly hand made is a trend that is becoming more mainstream and we as professional makers aren't quite sure what to do with this kind of "success".  Sometimes I compare it to the rise of Skateboarding- which started out as really small sub-culture and then blew up into mainstream proportions.  A lot of hard-core skaters I know went underground when it all became so mainstream- that or just kept trying to do bigger and better tricks while they rode the wave of popularity.  Not to say that the hand-made movement is exactly the same, or that we have to have the same response, but just that I find it kind of interesting considering a few years ago someone made the comment about my work- that it was a 'bit too handmade looking', and now that's what everyone seems to be looking for.

Monday, October 1, 2012

a visit to a Blacksmith studio

Nope, not every day you meet a real, live blacksmith.  But meet one, we did, while we were visiting friends on Vancouver Island this summer.  I know this post comes a whole month later, but needless to say, my boys are still talking about how they want to be a blacksmith after checking out Island Blacksmith's studio and watching Davej Friesner banging out some reclaimed metal.  Boys + metal + fire + knives.  Makes total sense, doesn't it?